Invent Yourself

The Wright Brothers Timeline

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1867

April 16

Wilbur Wright born to Reverend Milton Wright and Susan Catherine Koerner Wright near Milville, Indiana. He is their third child; his older siblings are Reuchlin (b. 1861) and Lorin (b. 1862).

1869

Spring

Wright family moves to Dayton, Ohio.

1871

Bishop Wright on porch of 7 Hawthorn Dayton Ohio

Bishop Milton Wright sits on the porch of 7 Hawthorne Street, where the family lived from 1871 to 1914.
Image from the NCR Archive at Dayton History.

August 19

Orville Wright born.

1874

August 19

Wilbur and Orville’s sister, Katharine Wright, born.

1878

Upon his return from a church business trip, Bishop Milton Wright brings home a toy Penaud helicopter. The toy inspires Wilbur and Orville’s first interest in flight.

1881

June

Wright family moves to Richmond, Indiana, where Orville takes up kite-building.

1884

June

Wright family returns to Dayton.

1885

Central High School

Wilbur, Orville and Katharine attended Central High School, located at Fourth and Wilkinson Streets in downtown Dayton. While neither Wilbur nor Orville completed their high school education, Katharine graduated from Central in 1892.
Image courtesy of the Dayton Metro Library.

September

Wilbur takes special “postgraduate” courses at Dayton Central High School and studies Greek and trigonometry.

1886

With his friend Ed Sines, Orville starts The Midget, a school newspaper, with a press given to him by his brothers and type from his father.

1887

September

Orville starts Dayton Central High School.

1889

March 1

Orville begins to publish the weekly West Side News. Editor and publisher, he maintains an active interest in printing and publishing for several years.

July 4

Wilbur and Orville’s mother, Susan Catherine Koerner Wright, dies at age 58.

1890

West Side News Dayton Ohio April 20, 1889

The April 20, 1890 issue of The West Side News, published by Orville and edited by Wilbur Wright.
From the collections of Dayton History.

April 30

Orville and Wilbur turn West Side News into an evening newspaper, The Evening Item, although publication ceases in August.

Wright and Dunbar school steps

The Central High School class of 1890, which included both Orville Wright (fourth from left, back row) and Paul Laurence Dunbar (far left, back row).
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

September

Orville begins final year of high school as a special student in Latin. Leaves school before graduation.

December 13

Paul Laurence Dunbar starts the Dayton Tattler, printed by his classmate, Orville Wright.

1892

December

Orville and Wilbur open a bicycle shop, the Wright Cycle Company. They remain in the bicycle manufacturing and repair business until 1907. The business gives them the funds necessary to carry out their early aeronautical experiments.

1893

1893 Worlds Fair Chicago Ferris Wheel

The world’s first Ferris Wheel was a highlight of the midway at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. More than 47 million people visited the world’s fair between May and October of 1893.
Image from the NCR Archive at Dayton History.

Wilbur and Orville attend World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago where the aeronautical exhibit draws their interest.

1894

October 20

Wilbur and Orville start a weekly magazine, Snap Shots.

1895

Wright Cycle Company Bicycles ad January 5, 1895

An 1895 advertisement for the Wright Cycle Company shows the different prices that bicycles were being sold for at the time.
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

Orville invents a calculating machine that multiplies and adds.

1896

Wright brothers begin to manufacture their own brand of bicycles—first the Van Cleve and the “Wright Special,” and later the less expensive St. Clair.

August–October

Orville seriously ill with typhoid fever.

August 10

Otto Lilienthal, German engineer and aeronautical pioneer, dies from injuries suffered in a crash while testing his latest single-surface glider. The tragedy renews the Wright brothers’ interest in Lilienthal and the problem of human flight.

1897–1898

While running their bicycle business, Wilbur and Orville study the problems of mechanical and human flight. After reading extensively and studying bird flight and Lilienthal’s work, the brothers are convinced that human flight is possible and decide to conduct some experiments of their own.

1899

May 30

Wilbur writes Smithsonian Institution inquiring about publications on aeronautical subjects.

July–August

Brothers build and Wilbur flies a biplane kite in order to test the “wing-warping” method of controlling a flying machine. This experiment encourages the Wrights to proceed with constructing a flying machine with a pilot.

November 27

Brothers write the U.S. Weather Bureau for information on an appropriate place to conduct flying experiments.

1900

May 13

Wilbur writes to Octave Chanute, a civil engineer and aeronautical pioneer. Correspondence begins an important friendship lasting until Chanute’s death in 1910.

September 6

Wilbur leaves for Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville arrives later and they stay with William J. Tate until their camp is ready in early October.

October

Wrights begin their experiments, flying their glider as a kite and as a man-carrying glider. About a dozen free flights are made although total time in the air is only about two minutes. They stay until October 23.

1901

June 26

Octave Chanute meets the Wrights for the first time in Dayton.

July

Wilbur’s articles, “Angle of Incidence,” published in Aeronautical Journal, and “Die Wagerechte Lage Wahrend des Gleitfluges,” published in Ilustrierte Aeronautische Mitteilungen, are the brothers’ first published aeronautical writings.

July 10

Wrights arrive in Kitty Hawk and begin experiments with a larger glider. From fifty to one hundred flights are made in July and August, ranging in distance from twenty to almost four hundred feet.

August 4–11

Chanute visits the Wrights at Kill Devil Hill and witnesses some of their glider experiments.

August 20

Wrights leave Kitty Hawk.

September 18

Wilbur addresses the Western Society of Engineers on the brothers’ 1900–01 gliding experiments.

October–December

Wrights conduct tests on airfoils and build a wind tunnel.

1902

August 28

Wilbur and Orville arrive at their Kitty Hawk camp.

September 8–19

Wrights assemble their new glider.

September 19–October 24

Wright brothers make between seven hundred and one thousand glides and increase their distance to 622-1/2 feet.

October 28

Wrights leave Kitty Hawk.

December

Wrights conduct experiments with propellers and begin to build their 1903 four-cylinder engine.

1903

Dunbar at NCR Dining Room January 6 1903

Orville Wright’s classmate, Paul Laurence Dunbar, giving a speech in the women’s dining room at the National Cash Register Company on January 6, 1903.
Image from the NCR Archive at Dayton History.

March 23

Wright brothers apply for a patent on their flying machine (patent issued May 22, 1906).

September 25

Wilbur and Orville arrive at Kitty Hawk.

September 28–November 12

Wrights experiment with 1902 glider.

October 9–November 4

Brothers assemble the 1903 machine and install the engine.

November 5–December 9

Propeller shafts break twice and brothers return to Dayton to repair them and obtain replacements.

December 14

Wilbur makes the first, but unsuccessful, attempt to fly a powered machine from slope of Big Kill Devil Hill. Machine stalls after 3-1/2 seconds in the air and lands 105 feet below.

December 17

Wilbur and Orville make the first free, controlled, and sustained flights in a power-driven, heavier-than-air machine. Three men from the Kill Devil Life Saving Station and two from Nags Head witness the four trial flights. First trial is made by Orville at 10:35 A.M., stays twelve seconds in the air, and flies 120 feet. John T. Daniels photographs the first flight with Orville’s camera. Wilbur makes the longest flight in the fourth trial, fifty-nine seconds in the air and 852 feet.

December 21

Wrights leave Kitty Hawk.

1904

Toulmin Check from Wright

Harry A. Toulmin was the Springfield, Ohio attorney who helped the Wright’s secure a patent for their flying machine in 1906. This check is initialed by Wilbur Wright.
From the collections of Dayton History.

January 22

Wrights employ Harry A. Toulmin, a patent attorney, to work on their patent case.

March

Wrights apply for French and German patents on their airplane.

April–May

At Huffman Prairie, a large meadow near Dayton, Wilbur and Orville build a new heavier and stronger machine with a more powerful motor.

May–December

Wrights make practice flights with their new 1904 machine at Huffman Prairie—total flying time is forty-nine minutes. Wilbur makes the first turn in the air on September 15 and the first complete circle on September 20. Longest flight of the year is five minutes four seconds, 2-3/4 miles—almost four circles around the field.

1905

January

U.S. Board of Ordnance and Fortification rejects the Wrights’ offer of sale of their airplane.

June

Huffman Prairie Wright airplane 1905

Wright brothers finish work on a 1905 machine and begin making flights in it at Huffman Prairie. Orville Wright pictured here turning to the left in the last photographed flight (No. 46) of 1905; Huffman Prairie, Dayton, Ohio.
From the collections of the Library of Congress.

October 5

Wilbur makes the longest flight of the year: 24-1/5 miles in 39 minutes, 23-4/5 seconds, more than twenty-nine times around the field, at an average speed of thirty-eight miles per hour.

October 27

U.S. Board of Ordnance and Fortification declines the Wrights’ second offer of their airplane.

1906

January 6

Wrights join the Aero Club of America.

May 22

U.S. Patent Office grants the Wrights patent, No. 821,393, for a flying machine.

1907

Brothers travel to Europe to negotiate for the sale of the Wright airplane abroad. Hart O. Berg and Flint & Company are their agents.

November–December

Wilbur meets with officials from U.S. Signal Corps and Board of Ordnance to discuss their airplane’s capabilities.

December 23

U.S. Signal Corps advertises for bids for a military heavier-than-air flying machine to be submitted by February 1.

1908

January 27

Wrights submit their bid to U.S. Signal Corps to supply a heavier-than-air flying machine, weighing between 1,100 and 1,250 pounds, carrying two passengers, and flying at a speed of forty miles per hour.

February 8

United States Army Airplane contract with Wright 1908

The Wright brothers’ contract with the United States government for the purchase of “one heavier than air flying machine.”
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

Wrights’ bid to furnish a flying machine to U.S. War Department for $25,000 is accepted.

April 9

Wilbur and Orville arrive in Kitty Hawk to brush up on their flying skills.

May 14

Wrights carry a passenger on a flight for the first time: Charles W. Furnas flies with Wilbur.

May 29

Wilbur arrives in Paris to demonstrate the capabilities of the Wright airplane in Europe.

August 8

Wilbur makes his first flight at Le Mans, France—the Wrights’ first flight in Europe.

August 27

Wright 1908 airplane is assembled and ready for testing at Fort Meyer, Virginia.

September

Orville makes U.S. Army test flights at Fort Meyer and establishes records with and without passengers.

September 17

Orville is seriously injured and his passenger, Lt. Thomas Selfridge, is killed in an airplane crash at Fort Meyer. Airplane crashes to the ground from a height of about seventy-five feet after a propeller blade breaks and the machine goes out of control. Selfridge is the first airplane fatality.

November 1

Orville and sister Katharine arrive in Dayton after his discharge from the hospital in Fort Meyer.

November 30

La Compagnie Générale de Navigation Aérienne, the French Wright company, organized.

December 31

Wilbur wins 1908 Michelin Cup and a prize of twenty thousand francs with his flight of 123 kilometers, two hundred meters in two hours, 18 minutes, 33-3/5 seconds. He extends this same flight to break a new world record in a time of two hours, 20 minutes, 23-1/5 seconds over 124 kilometers, 700 meters.

1909

January 12

Orville and Katharine join Wilbur in Paris.

January 14

Wilbur arrives at Pau, France. Orville and Katharine join him a few days later.

February–March

Wilbur makes a series of training flights with three French student pilots at Pau.

March 4

Congressional Medal is awarded to the Wrights by resolution of Congress (H.J. Resolution 246), “in recognition of the great service of Orville and Wilbur Wright, of Ohio, rendered the science of aerial navigation in the invention of the Wright aeroplane, and for their ability, courage, and success in navigating the air.” Medal is presented to the brothers on June 18.

April 1

Wilbur arrives in Rome to make demonstration flights and train two Italian pilots. Orville and Katharine arrive April 9.

May 11

Wrights arrive in New York.

May 13

Flugmaschine Wright Gesellschaft, the German Wright company in Berlin, is formed.

June

Wrights perform propeller tests in Dayton to determine cause of the Fort Meyer accident in order to prevent similar future accidents.

June 17–18

1909 Parade Decoration

Two-day celebration thrown by the city of Dayton to honor the Wright brothers. A great celebration of the Wright brother’s achievements was held in Dayton on June 17 & 18, 1909. Downtown streets were decorated for the parade held in the Wright’s honor; the celebration also included concerts, honors and fireworks.
Image from the Albert Kern Collection at Dayton History.
Orville and Wilbur wearing top hats for Home Days Celebration

At the Wright Brothers’ Home Days Celebration, Orville and Wilbur were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal and medals from the State of Ohio and the City of Dayton.
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

 

Children living flag Wright Celebration June 1909

A “living flag” made up of school children dressed in red, white and blue was a highlight of the 1909 celebration that honored the Wright brothers.
Image from the collections of Dayton History.

June 20

Wilbur and Orville arrive in Washington, D.C. to resume trial flights at Fort Meyer for U.S. government.

June 26

Glenn H. Curtiss sells his Curtiss airplane, the first commercial sale of an airplane in the United States, to Aeronautic Society of New York for $7,500. Sale sets in motion the beginning of the Wrights’ patent suit against Curtiss.

July 27

With Lt. Frank P. Lahm as his passenger, Orville flies for one hour, 12 minutes, 37-4/5 seconds. Flight fulfills the Army’s requirements and is witnessed by President Taft, his cabinet, and other public officials as well as an estimated crowd of ten thousand spectators at Fort Meyer.

August 8

Orville and Katharine leave for Europe for demonstration flights and sales negotiations in Germany.

August 18

Wrights begin a patent suit against Herring-Curtiss Company and Glenn H. Curtiss by filing a bill of complaint to prevent them from manufacturing, selling, or using in exhibition the Curtiss airplane.

August 19

Wrights file suit against Aeronautic Society of New York to prevent further exhibition and use of the Curtiss airplane owned by the society because it infringes on Wright patents.

October 4

As part of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, Wilbur flies round-trip demonstration flights from Governors Island, New York, to the Statue of Liberty and Grant’s Tomb, New York City. More than one million spectators present.

October 8–November 2

At College Park, Maryland, Wilbur trains first U.S. Army fliers.

November 22

Wright Model B biplane being towed to Simms Flying Field Circa 1911

Wright Company, formed to manufacture their airplanes, is incorporated; Wilbur serves as president and Orville as vice president. A few days later, Wrights sell their American patent rights to the company for $100,000, 40 percent of the company stock and a 10 percent royalty for every airplane built. When the Wright Company was incorporated, it rented space in the Speedwell Motor Car Company factory on Dayton’s west side.
Image from the NCR Archive at Dayton History.

November–December

Wright Company moves forward on patent lawsuits. Wilbur and Orville give affidavits and attend trial for The Wright Company v. Herring-Curtiss Company and Glenn H. Curtiss patent suit.

1910

January

Wright Company and Wright brothers continue their involvement in patent suits.

March

Wright Exhibition Company formed, with Roy Knabenshue as manager.

March 26–May 5

Orville conducts flight training school in Montgomery, Alabama, for pilots who will fly for Wright Exhibition Company.

June 13–18

Wright Aeroplane Factory exterior

Wright Exhibition Company team flies in its first show in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Wright Company built its own factory on Coleman Avenue near West Third Street in 1910. These buildings, which housed the world’s first airplane factory, are now a part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
Image from the NCR Archive at Dayton History.

September

Orville Wright flying over Dayton Circa 1910

Orville Wright in flight over downtown on September 22, 1910 as a part of Dayton’s Aviation Day.
Image from the NCR Archive at Dayton History.

November

Pilot Phil O. Parmalee in Wright airplane 1910

Orville travels to Europe to find both the German and French Wright companies struggling financially. Phil O. Parmalee prepares for the first delivery of air freight, flying from Dayton to deliver bolts of silk to a Columbus, Ohio department store on November 7, 1910.
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

1911

March 12

A Wright B flyer in flight over Huffman Prairie Flying Field in 1911

Wilbur leaves for Europe to testify in a French Wright patent suit in Paris and to train pilots in Germany. A Wright B flyer in flight over Huffman Prairie Flying Field in 1911. A small crowd of people, and some cows, have gathered near the hangar to watch the flight.
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

1912

January–April

Wilbur and Orville testify for patent infringement lawsuits.

May 30

Wilbur Wright’s funeral procession passes through the gates of Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery on June 1, 1912

Wilbur dies of typhoid fever in Dayton. Wilbur Wright’s funeral procession passes through the gates of Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery on June 1, 1912.
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

1913

February 10

Orville and Katharine leave for Europe on business and return March 19.

March 25–27

Williams Street, near the Wolf Creek bridge, during the 1913 Flood

Miami River floods and causes considerable damage to the Wright family home and property in Dayton. Wrights’ collection of glass plate photographic negatives as well as early business and aviation records are damaged. Williams Street, near the Wolf Creek bridge, during the 1913 Flood. Notice how the water covers the span of the bridge.
Image from the collections of Dayton History.

1914

January 13

U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of New York rules in favor of the Wright Company in its suit against Herring-Curtiss Company and Glenn H. Curtiss.

April

Orville, Katharine and the Bishop move into Hawthorn Hill located in Oakwood, a suburb of Dayton.

November 16

Wright Company files a complaint against Curtiss Aeroplane Company for continuing to manufacture, use, and sell flying machines which infringe on Wright patent.

1915

April–May

Orville involved in patent infringement lawsuits.

August

In its 1914 annual report, the Smithsonian Institution states that Samuel P. Langley’s aerodrome was “the first aeroplane capable of sustained free flight with a man.” This statement leads to the controversy between Orville and the Smithsonian Institution that is not resolved until 1942.

October 15

Orville sells his interest in the Wright Company but serves as consulting engineer.

1916

August 7

Wright Company merges with Glenn L. Martin Company, becoming Wright-Martin Aircraft Corporation. Orville serves as chief consultant engineer.

1917

The Dayton Wright Airplane Company developed this forestry patrol aircraft for use by the Canadian Forest Service

Orville establishes Wright Aeronautical Laboratory in Dayton. The Dayton Wright Airplane Company developed this forestry patrol aircraft for use by the Canadian Forest Service. Dayton Wright was founded in 1917 by Edward A. Deeds, Charles F. Kettering, H.E. Talbott and H.E. Talbott, Jr.; Orville Wright served the company as a consulting engineer.
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

April 3

Bishop Milton Wright dies in Dayton.

1920

January 13

Orville gives depositions for patent lawsuits.

January 29

President Wilson appoints Orville a member of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. He serves until his death in 1948.

May 23

Wilbur and Orville’s brother Reuchlin Wright dies in Kansas City, Missouri.

1921

February 2

Orville gives depositions for patent lawsuits.

1925

January 20

Orville issued a patent for a mechanical toy. The toy is produced and sold by the Miami Specialty Wood Company in Dayton, of which Lorin Wright is president.

May

Orville and the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution publicly disagree over whether Samuel Langley’s Aerodrome or the Wrights’ airplane was the first capable of flight.

1926

November 20

Katharine Wright marries Henry J. Haskell.

1927

Orville Wright and Charles Lindbergh in Dayton in 1927

Colonel Charles Lindbergh flies to Dayton’s Wright Field to visit Orville. Lindbergh makes a spontaneous public appearance from the balcony at Hawthorn Hill. Orville Wright and Charles Lindbergh are seen following Lindbergh’s arrival in Dayton in 1927.
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

 

Hawthorn Hill following Lindbergh's Trans-Atlantic flight

Crowds have gathered on the lawn of Hawthorn Hill on June 22, 1927 hoping for a glimpse of Charles Lindbergh following his successful Trans-Atlantic flight.
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

1928

January 31

In response to the Smithsonian controversy, Orville ships the 1903 Wright airplane to the Science Museum in London, England, as a five-year loan.

1929

February 27

Distinguished Flying Crosses awarded to Orville and Wilbur presented to Orville by Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis.

March 3

Katharine Wright Haskell dies of pneumonia in Kansas City.

1932

November 19

Orville attends dedication of Kill Devil Hill National Memorial honoring the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk.

1936

Orville Wright and Henry Ford inspect Wright's future bicycle shop in 1936

Orville Wright and Henry Ford inspect 1127 West Third Street prior to Ford’s purchase of the building that housed the Wright’s final bicycle shop in 1936.
Image from the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History.

1938

April 16

Wright brothers’ home and bicycle shop, moved from Dayton to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, are dedicated as a memorial to the Wrights.

December 17

Henry Ford, founder of The Ford Motor Company and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production, visits Orville at Hawthorn Hill in Dayton on the 35th anniversary of the first flight.

1939

December 1

Wilbur and Orville’s brother Lorin Wright dies in Dayton.

1940

July

1903 Wright airplane on exhibit at the Science Museum in London dismantled and packed away for safekeeping during World War II.

August 19

Wilbur and Orville Wright Memorial in Dayton and near Huffman Prairie, is dedicated.

1942

October 24

Smithsonian Institution publishes The 1914 Tests of the Langley “Aerodrome,” a brochure that apologizes for and retracts former statements about the precedence of the Langley machine, marking end of the Smithsonian-Wright controversy.

1944

Orville builds cypher machine for automatic selective coding of messages.

1948

January 30

Orville dies of heart attack in Dayton. NCR purchases Hawthorn Hill after Orville’s death. The company refurbishes all of the rooms except for the library, Leaving it as a sort of shrine to Orville.

November 22

1903 airplane arrives from the Science Museum in London and is delivered to Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Plane is formally presented to Smithsonian in a ceremony on December 17.

2006

NCR gives Hawthorn Hill to The Wright Family Foundation.

2009

March

The U.S. Congress makes Hawthorn Hill a part of Dayton Aviation National Historical Park.

2013

June

The Wright Family Foundation transfers ownership of Hawthorn Hill to Dayton History to sustain, restore, and preserve as a community asset into the future.

 

Sources:

Collections of Dayton History

Dayton Metro Library

Albert Kern Collection at Dayton History

Library of Congress

NCR Archive at Dayton History

Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University

William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection at Dayton History